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NIGERIA LOSES $25.5BN ANNUALLY TO ILLEGAL MARITIME ACTIVITIES

By NBF News
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Nigeria loses $25.5bn annually to illegal activities on the nation's waters due to inadequate maritime security, the Chairman, Presidential Implementation Committee on Maritime Safety and Security, Air Vice-Marshal Saliu Atawodi, has said.

He said this just as he disclosed that Lagos State had 33 illegal jetties that were being used to bring illegal goods into the country.

Atawodi spoke at a press briefing on the state of the nation's maritime security in Abuja on Tuesday.

He said, 'Nigeria currently loses $25.5bn annually to all kinds of illegal maritime activities going on in our waters. In 2001, this was estimated to be costing Nigeria some $30m; by 2003 that had climbed to over N1bn. The current estimate is some 600,000 barrels daily, worth some $14.5bn.

'This is more than 10 per cent of Nigeria's Gross Domestic Product. Between May 2005 and May 2008, 236 vessels of various types involved in illegal bunkering were arrested and many of them were quietly cleared. Today, Nigeria is budgeting N4.3tn. If these loopholes are blocked, Nigeria could surpass that. Lagos State has 33 unregistered jetties that are used in bringing in illegal goods into the country.'

PICOMSS is a committee that was born out of the International Ship and Port Facility Security code formed by the International Maritime Organisation, following the 9/11 attack of the World Trade Centre and other types of insecurity in the world.

The proposed agency is expected to transform into a maritime security agency as exemplified by the United Kingdom, United States and Ghana so as to ensure the security of ships and ports facilities.

He said a maritime security agency was needed to tackle piracy, oil bunkering and midstream discharge among other illegal activities that had for long bedevilled the maritime sector and hindered economic and security development.

Explaining the function of PICOMSS, he cited the example of the Nigeria Airforce, whose responsibility was air defence, but was not in charge of airport security.

He said the Nigerian Navy had to do with maritime defence but was not in charge of the security of ships and ports facilities.

According to him, security of ships and ports facilities is expected to be handled by the Maritime Security Agency upon the passage of the bills before the National Assembly.

The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency deals with administration and safety issues only, according to him.

He said, 'Nigeria has a coastline of 420NM and an exclusive economic zone of 200NM. Much of this coastline is not merely under-piloted, but is relatively under-populated and difficult to access overland. It offers plethora of locations suitable as temporary bases for gangs of all kinds.

'The piracy activities cost Nigeria some $200m in four years. It has also been partly responsible for the decline in Nigeria's fishing industry from 40 companies with 250 registered vessels, to 19 companies with 170.'

Quoting Nigrian National Petroleum Corporation figures, he said Nigeria lost about 1.7mb/d of crude oils, translating into about $9bn between May and June 2009. This, he said, the proposed agency would tackle to engender maritime security and economic development.